TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
SUBMISSIONS - QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
DATE: 13 JUNE 1997
NAME: PRISCILLA MAXONGO
CASE: - MDANTSANE
CHAIRPERSON: We will call Priscilla. Priscilla, I have forgotten your surname.
MS MAXONGO: I am Maxongo, Maxongo.
CHAIRPERSON: We welcome you Priscilla. Thank you for coming here and give us
few words about the struggle of women in this region. We could not get anyone,
because we knew, we know that you have played a leading role in that struggle. I will
now hand over to you to give us your statement.
MS MAXONGO: Thank you Reverend. Let me greet you Reverend and people in
the panel together with everybody present here. I would like to thank this opportunity,
I was given this opportunity after Sisan Jikilane, who was testifying here, he was my
leader in the trade union. Chairperson, I am not going to say a lot, but I will just tell
you briefly what happened. I am worried, because I was supposed to testify yesterday,
but because of the situation here in Mdantsane I could not testify yesterday. My
speech would make sense if I testified yesterday, because yesterday was women's day.
Women in South Africa have struggled. That is what I wanted to say yesterday. I
wanted to clarify this.
Women were involved in the struggle. They started in the bus boycott and in
the trade unions. Because it was very difficult for us to be involved in the struggle we
had to form different other organisations. We did not want to depend on the trade
union only. We formed our own committees. We were going to be joined to the
community organisations. We started with UWO, United Womens' Organisation,
which was a national organisation. We worked together with the trade union, because
we were also workers. We wanted to be liberated. This is, this was our strategy. We
continued as UWO as women and we supported the bus boycott.
At that time in the Committee of Ten, I was one of the members. There were
only two women in that committee. Eight of the other members were men. We
continued in this committee. I am not, I do not want to talk a lot about the bus
boycott, because Sisan has already given you that information, but what I would like
to say is that we were fighting against the increase of five cents. They called it 11%.
We as workers, we were not aware of this 11%, but we found out that the difference
was five cents. People were killed, Chairperson. I am here today, because I want to
testify on that. People were shot. I heard about this while I was in prison, because in
1983 I was detained in NU1.
The bus boycott started on the first of July. On the second day people were
supporting the bus boycott and the leaders of that bus boycott were detained. The
aim, Chairperson, was that as the leaders were being detained people would go and
use the busses, because they thought that the leaders were the ones stopping people
from using busses. We were detained as members of the Committee of Ten in NU1
together with other members of SAWU, who were suspected to be the ones
supporting the bus boycott. People were strong and they knew where we were
detained. The police would come to our cells, Chairperson. They would tell us that
the bus boycott was over. I would say that, we would say that they were not telling us
I was amongst these men. Everybody who was a leader was arrested at that
time. Chairperson, we were inside at the time. I would like to repeat that people
supported the bus boycott. The leaders were all inside, they were arrested. I became
ill in the prison cell. After I ate my meal, as the detainees, as detainees we would eat
food from different hospitals and on this particular day all the leaders were there and
Tangana was also there. After we had our meal, Chairperson, there was chaos. We
wanted, everybody wanted to go to the loo after we had this meal. Because we were
more than 15, because Comrades were more than 15 in the cell they would go to one
loo. Fortunately, I was alone in the cell. I became ill and they decided to take me to
hospital. In hospital my family members were not allowed, because I was a detainee,
but the workers would come to visit me in hospital and they would want information
of whether there are any leaders who died there.
Chairperson, as the Committee of Ten we were disturbed, because people
were being shot outside and some of them disappeared. Today, on behalf of the
Committee of Ten, when I am concluding the bus boycott issue, I would like to say the
victims family members of the bus boycott massacre would not be satisfied,
Chairperson, unless someone would come forward to tell us what happened, because
if you are a leader and such incidents are happening, you are also affected. The people
who were against our organisation said that we were the ones who made people killed.
When I am concluding the bus boycott issue I would like to ask the Committee to
persuade the perpetrators to come forward to tell the truth so that the victims and their
family members can be satisfied. They must come here and apologise and I would like
the Commission to speak to the President so that we can have projects in our area and
people can get pension grants. It is difficult for the victims, those who were injured to
get the grant. If the Commission can help them so that they get the pension grant.
The Commission can come to us and ask the names of these people. We do have
records although they were burnt down when SAWO offices were burnt down.
Chairperson, I would also like to talk about the struggle of school children
especially what happened in Mdantsane in 1986. We were different structures and we
were trying to discuss this. Women organisations were there. We had women's
organisations which were strong in East London. We also had an, DUWEL
organisation and ELWA, East London Womens Association and Democratic Union of
Women of East London. These two organisations would be present when
negotiations took place.
In 1986 we were harassed as women. In all the mentioned occasions women
were the ones who were harassed the most. In the case, in the incident of bus boycott,
in 1983 I was in hospital. I was assaulted in the police station in NU1. In 1984 I went
back to hospital for six weeks, because I was also assaulted. I think I was assaulted,
because I had connections with the ANC and it was banned at that time. Members of
the Committee of Ten were harassed by the people, because people said that these
members sold me out. I use to go to Lesotho. We did not want the bus boycott to
have anything to do with the ANC. I denied everything and I denied the evidence by
They then assaulted me. I urinated myself and my ears were burning. They
put a tube. This was used by the Security Branch when a person would be
interrogated. They would tie this tube in your neck so that you could not breathe.
They would say to you if you want us to put, to take off this tube, you will tell us the
truth and tie, the tube was tied in your neck. The police would say that if you are
ready to tell us the truth, raise your hand. After five minutes I would raise my hand
and say, yes, I am going to tell you the truth and they would take off this tube. I
would say, yes, I am going to tell you the truth. I do go to Lesotho and I come back.
What else do you want? I am not going to, I do not want to talk more about that.
At that time I was a leader, but I would like to tell you what the police use to
do to us. I was imprisoned with my friend Mtze, it was four of us in totality. We were
woken up early in the morning by the prisoners to be interrogated at unit one,
Mdantsane. The interrogation was led by White men. The team was led by Charles
van Wyk. There was a whole lot of them. So therefore the team that was torturing us
and the team that was interrogating us was different. They therefore had particular
specific job to beat people up, to torture people. This is the Black people, our own
people that were torturing us. When I had urinated on myself, all wet, I woke up from
that, my tracksuit was wet as well.
They sent in my friend, Mtze, so that I could see how much he had been
beaten up. He said to us if you continue not to divulge the truth you are going to die
here. He said to me that Mtze was beaten up, because I was not divulging anything. I
saw that they would say that they would beat us up until we mess on ourselves. My
friend had messed on himself, I noticed. I said to him that perhaps we should tell them
everything, but we decided not to. We said to them that they must beat us up to
death, it is alright. He said the same thing. I would hear him screaming, crying from
next door and he would hear me as well. These were huge, hefty men that were
beating us up, you must realise.
Mr Chairperson, Madam Chair, the most important thing I want to say about
women's struggle for liberation. Nhononho ...
CHAIRPERSON: Excuse me, because we did not get a statement we did not know
that you would mention peoples' names. It is my job to warn you that this is not
according to our procedures.
MS MAXONGO: Reverend, people were beaten up. It was painful. Women cried
out, they screamed, but there was no mercy. You would think that when a woman
cries out, praying, mercy would be found. We prayed, but got no mercy. I was also
beaten up Mr Chairperson. I was beaten up such that I had a terrible wound on my
head that I was temporarily blind. The women stood strong. The car I was driving
was packed with women. When we were next to Elwoody with women bleeding, the
traffic cop stopped my car. The traffic cops stopped our car. They said that I did not
have a licence. I told them I had a learner's licence. They said that I could not do that.
I told them that we were bleeding, injured. They refused. We got out as women,
pushed them out of the way and got back to the car and we told them that they would
get us at the hospital. As women we were very oppressed. Our rights were violated,
but we got to the hospital.
Mr Chairperson, I said that I was not going to be long. I just wanted to reveal
that as women we contributed to the struggle. I want to request the Committee,
however, that, well it is going to take a report before the President, especially in
connection with the bus boycott victims, something should be done for the people.
People's families, children belonging to the victims. There should be some form of
fund to educate, to pay for their education. We would appreciate that peoples' bodies
be exhumed and people be given their full rights to bury their own people that
disappeared. Children that were injured, most of them were not able to continue with
their education. These are the battles of COSAS. They should be, people should
endeavour to help these people.
I went to the Border Training Centre and found out that if the Government
would help certain organisations and women so that people could be trained. There
are knitting machines, sewing machines and there are other ways to help people
especially with their skills so that people can forgive and people can let go of the
bitterness they feel towards Sebe's regime.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Priscilla. We know that you could continue the whole
MS MAXONGO: It is exactly so Sir.
CHAIRPERSON: You speak as a woman who did not read about the womens
struggle in the newspapers, but who lived it. You were in an out of detention cells
quite a number of times during the struggle for liberation. Your requests before the
Commission that womens' projects be looked at closely and also thanking, in a way, a
token thanking them for their contribution to the struggle. Thank you Priscilla. We
need a copy of your statement so that we have it in our record, because I do not think
you read everything that you wrote. Thank you. You may step down.
MS MAXONGO: Thank you Mr Chairperson.
1 P MAXONGO
MDANTSANE HEARING TRC/EASTERN CAPE